The day after Christmas, the number of positive cases hit 2,335…
Virus spike expected as Malaysians scatter to see off 2020
Hotels report full bookings while holiday destinations are packed with crowds.
MalaysiaNow Dec 28, 2020 11:06 AM
Tens of thousands are thronging beaches and other holiday destinations outside the cities despite repeated warnings to avoid non-critical travel over fears of Covid-19, as many Malaysians mark the end of a challenging year which saw daily life and businesses ravaged around the world.
The increased mobility has been a trend since early this month, when authorities decided to end a ban on interstate travel even as the daily infection rate continued.
Throughout the Christmas season, the Malaysian Highway Authority which reports conditions on all tolled highways has been reporting slow traffic on major interstate routes.
That trend is expected to continue all the way into January, as many families take advantage of the little window of travel freedom they have after a year filled with movement restrictions and the closures of schools, malls and public attractions.
Experts say they will not be surprised if a spike in infections occurs after a long weekend.
“The scenario of a post-holiday spike is expected regardless of the occasion,” Dr Steven Chow, who heads the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations, told MalaysiaNow.
Just a day after Christmas, the health ministry announced a new record of 2,335 more Covid-19 patients nationwide, leading to fears that projections by a US-based research group of twice that number in the months to come could turn into reality.
Daily infection numbers first passed the 2,000 psychological barrier on Nov 24.
Last week, MalaysiaNow reported discussions among top officials to address a scenario of 5,000 daily cases that could stretch hospital facilities beyond their limit if preparations are not made.
This was based on a projection by Washington-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, that daily cases in Malaysia could hit 5,000 by Feb 25 and continue to rise until March 2021.
Early this month, Putrajaya, aware that prolonged restrictions on travel activities would further affect the economy, still reeling from the lockdown imposed in March, lifted the ban on interstate travel although maintaining the conditional MCO.
Checks by MalaysiaNow revealed crowds at holiday attractions such as the beaches in the east coast and shopping centres in Penang.
Hotels have also reported full occupancy, a far cry from the empty rooms throughout most of the year which led to retrenchments and salary cuts.
The Royale Chulan Hotel, among the more premium hotels dotting the seaside resort area of Cherating in Pahang, is seeing full occupancy as year-end approaches.
“The weekend saw 100% occupancy. Our booking is full so far, and bookings in the days to come have already reached between 90% and 100% for the Dec 28-31 period,” said Badrul Rezal Baharudin, the hotel’s resident manager in Cherating.
Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh contributed to this r
Malaysia considers reopening to tourism
29 Dec 2020 by Samuel Chan
Malaysia is considering easing its border restrictions in a bid to save its battered tourism industry. Any travel agreements will likely start with lower-risk countries in Asia-Pacific.
“We are now working at negotiating with countries such as Singapore, Brunei, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and New Zealand which have been identified as green zones,” said Malaysia’s tourism minister Nancy Shukri, according to Malay Mail.
The Southeast Asian nation’s borders remain closed to most foreign visitors since the pandemic broke out in March and have helped limit the spread of Covid-19 domestically. This summer, essential business travel agreements were established with neighbouring countries including Singapore.
The border closure has proved to be challenging for many travel operators, with the local tourism industry predicted to lose more than 100 billion ringgit ($24.6 billion) this year. Flag carrier Malaysia Airlines is also expected to undergo restructuring.